Victory Forge Military Academy
- Victory Forge Military Academy has changed its name to Southeastern Military Academy.
Victory Forge Military Academy, located in Port St. Lucie, Florida, is a year-round boarding school that utilizes military-style components for behavior modification. It enrolls "rebellious and troubled" adolescent males under the age of 18. The academy states that it is accredited by the National Association of Christian Education (NACE).
The facility was formerly a children's home founded in May 1985 by Rev. William Brink, who also operated Brinkhaven Homes for Youth in Ohio, where he was convicted for sexually molesting female students. Brink's two sons, Dale and Mark, a daughter, Molly, and her husband, Alan Weierman, were named as corporate officers. In 1992, Alan Weierman changed the name from Victory Children's Home to Treasure Coast Victory Children's Home and filed papers to have the home incorporated in Florida. In 1993, St. Lucie County commissioners voted to evict the residents of the facility from county property because Weierman refused to seek a state license to operate the shelter for neglected children.
In November 2009, Weierman registered a new nonprofit organization called Southeastern Military Academy, Inc., at the Victory Forge address. As of January 2010, the "Southeastern Military Academy" name was being used on promotional materials for the program operating at the Victory Forge location.
The president or commanding officer of Victory Forge, often referred to as "the Colonel", is Alan Weierman. He lists his qualifications as including a Ph.D in specialized business, a masters degree in counseling and psychology, certification as a behavioral analyst, and (as of 2008) 29 years of experience in child care and youth services.
Mr. Weierman was a troubled youth himself. His father was an alcoholic who supposedly was a very violent man who beat up the family daily. Mr. Weierman's mother died when he was 11. Mr. Weierman has stated that he was an alcoholic by age 10 and was involved with drugs, gangs, and crime.
In 1986, while working at his father-in-law's Brinkhaven Home in Ohio, Mr. Weierman was accused by a 16-year-old female resident at the facility of having had sex with her 30 times between August 1985 and June 1986. The police chief of Lawrence Township stated that "his investigation found sufficient probable cause to prosecute Weierman, including a polygraph test given the girl and a calendar she kept of the alleged sexual encounters". The case against Weierman was later dropped.
In 1989, Weierman was charged with obstructing justice for not reporting an allegation of child molestation that two girls made against a former director of the school. The charges were later dropped due to a lack of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.
Child abuse allegations
The school's disciplinary practices, including the use of physical restraints, have resulted in allegations of child abuse. Weierman has acknowledged that the school uses shackles as a disciplinary measure, saying that the school instructs boys that they will be shackled if they try to run away.
Between 1994 and 2008, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) investigated 35 child abuse allegations regarding Victory Forge.
In 2000, the DCF was on the verge of revoking Victory Forge's state license, but the home surrendered its license without a fight the day a judge was to hear evidence against the facility. The cause of this violation was that officials from the facility left a 17-year-old boy at another shelter without advanced notification or arrangements. In addition, the officials allowed a child with a history of sexual offenses to share a bedroom with another boy.
In 2002, police reported that students at the academy alleged that "they had been struck with metal pipes and a wooden paddle as methods of punishment".
At the conclusion of an investigation in April 2008, the DCF stated that the agency had "serious concerns about the safety and welfare of children," but there were no criminal violations. The DCF summary report stated that Victory Forge staff were believed to have "engaged in physical discipline that is harmful to children, such as choking to unconsciousness, punching, kicking, banging heads into walls and cabinets." DCF officials found evidence that a boy had been choked and subjected to bizarre punishment and mental injury, and that other boys had been threatened with harm. It had been reported in local media that there had been children found bound in shackles at the facility. DCF also noted that staff at the academy had a "pattern" of leaving the facility during an investigation. DCF officials used a private investigator to find one staff member, who then told DCF officials he had left because of the DCF investigation. He also told DCF that he felt abuse was occurring. In June 2008, police and state prosecutors concluded that Victory Forge had violated the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice policies on use of shackles and other physical restraints, but no criminal violations had occurred.
- Victory Forge Fact Sheet, archived July 16, 2007
- Jim Reeder and Mark Bridgwater, Money for Home in Doubt; Founder Sentenced for Child Sex Abuse, Palm Beach Post, October 29, 1992
- BRINK FAMILY LOSES CONTROL OF FLORIDA HOME TRUSTEES REORGANIZED FORT PIERCE OPERATION BECAUSE THEY FEARED OHIO SCANDAL'S EFFECT AND LOSS OF ASSETS, Akron Beacon-Journal, May 9, 1992, C2 METRO
- "Children's Home May Lose Support", The Palm Beach Post, October 11, 1992, 1B
- Jim Reeder, "County May Evict Children's Home", The Palm Beach Post, May 19, 1993, 1B
- Entry for Southeastern Military Academy, Inc., Florida State Department of Corporations, accessed February 6, 2010
- Southeastern Military Academy, Private School Review website, accessed January 17, 2010
- Jeremy Ashton, State urges parents to remove sons from Victory Forge Military Academy during abuse probe, TCPalm, April 26, 2008. In the section for reader comments on the article,[unreliable source?] Weierman stated "I am Alan Weierman the commander of Victory Forge. ... I hold a Ph.D. in specialized business, a Masters Degree in counseling and Psychology, and am a certified Behavioral Analyst. I have 29 years working in the field of child care and youth services. I am a past Vice Chairman of the Human Rights Advocacy Committee as well as the Statewide Human Rights Council. I am a member in good standing of the American Council of Social Workers."
- Inspiring by Example, Tutor Takes Kids Under Wing, The Palm Beach Post, HighBeam Research]
- Brinkhaven Kept Quiet; Stark Youth Home Didn't Report 16-year-old Summit Girl's Allegations in '86, as Required by Ohio Law, when she charged she had sex with founder's son-in-law, Akron Beacon Journal, March 11, 1992, Page D1 Metro
- Keona Gardner and Will Greenlee, Report: DCF has investigated 35 child-abuse claims at Victory Forge Military Academy, TCPalm, June 14, 2008
- "Victory Children's Home Gives Up State License", The Palm Beach Post, March 9, 2001, 1C
- "Children Tell Police of Abuse at Victory Forge," Palm Beach Post, June 25, 2002, 4B
- Ana X. Ceron and Teresa Lane, Police found teenage boy in shackles, The Palm Beach Post, April 25, 2008
- Will Greenlee, Officials: Victory Forge violated DJJ policies, but no laws broken, TCPalm, June 13, 2008
- Archive of Victory Forge Military Academy official website
- Southeastern Military Academy official website